cover image Brazen Creature

Brazen Creature

Anne Barngrover. Univ. of Akron, $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-62922-080-2

Barngrover (Yell Hound Blues) embarks on a journey through hot, humid landscapes of lust and cruelty in her sophomore effort. The speakers of her poems cry out against violence that is perpetuated against women while they simultaneously reclaim their own desires and libidinous humanity. “A woman’s home is her house and her house is her body,” Barngrover writes in the opening poem. The intimacy of the line is paramount, with white space of the page serving as a severing tool: “I spend too much on too little// sympathy until there’s none.” A similar effect haunts the creeping escalation of lines in “Science of Uncertainty,” in which the speaker confesses, “When he asked where/ I learned to kiss// that way, how could I say/ it was to keep// another man from leaving?” The entire collection snakes in this manner, like kudzu choking an abandoned building. Throughout, Barngrover both recognizes and rejects the inevitability of violence at the hands of an entrenched patriarchy: “Oh, charmer,/ I have learned your bright alphabet// of night-blooming flowers./ There will always be dirt in your nails// and smoke on your breath.” Though rooted in violence, Barngrover’s vital, nuanced collection displays a wit and sense of awareness borne of deep experience. (Apr.)